The Best TV Shows Of 2018
By Willow Green Posted 27 Jun 2018
From hit hitwomen to scandalous English dramas, fresh new series and returning greats, 2018 has been packed with top-quality TV shows on the airwaves and streaming services alike. Here are the best small-screen sagas from the last six months, as picked by the Pilot TV staff.
Fleeing the BBC for Sky Atlantic, Nighty Night‘s Julia Davis created her blackest and most uncomfortable comedy yet. There was a scene in the trailer alone that will haunt your nightmares (you know the one), and by the time we reached the already infamous fourth episode, all bets were off. Davis’ newest monster is Emma, a nightclub singer and party girl whose Sapphic awakening we followed with the sort of stunned disbelief that only Davis’ comedy can provoke. Overshared intimacy and more bodily functions and fluids than you probably care to be exposed to, made for often truly excruciating viewing. But for all the stupefying horror, Sally4Ever was simultaneously one of the most hilarious shows of the year.
9. The Americans
After last year’s slower-burning penultimate season, The Americans wrapped up with a devastating emotional blow thanks to series-best performances from Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell. The show continued to evolve with new visual tricks even in its final run, building to an emotionally-charged climax that avoids all the ‘underwhelming finale’ pitfalls that have hampered even some of the very best TV shows.
8. Save Me
Is the yellow puffa jacket this year’s most iconic piece of British telly clothing? Possibly. But what it contains – Lennie James’ harried womaniser Nelly, accused of abducting the daughter he hasn’t seen for years – is the most important part. It’s a tour-de-force project for James who creates as well as stars, and his on-camera work is bolstered by an amazing performance from Suranne Jones as his ex and a plot that twists and turns in a believable fashion. Oh, and we brought James and director Nick Murphy on to the podcast to chat about the show, which you can listen to right here.
7. Doctor Who
Ever since William Hartnell morphed into Patrick Troughton 52 years ago, Doctor Who has been a series with reinvention in its DNA – but it’s arguably never gone through as radical a change as 2018’s belt-and-braces reboot. After years of tabloid chatter, new show runner Chris Chibnall gender-swapped the lead role for the first time into Jodie Whittaker’s breezy, whimsical 13th Doctor. But beyond that, he also cast an entirely new extended “family” for The Doctor and oversaw the show upping sticks from its familiar London-centric (narrative) base to the streets of Sheffield. A completely new writing team also refreshed the story pool, not least YA author Malorie Blackman, who scripted an affecting historical third episode paying a visit to Rosa Parks in 1950s Alabama.
6. A Very English Scandal
Hugh Grant’s astonishing comeback continues in this three-part miniseries. This time he’s Jeremy Thorpe — the British politician who entered a hidden love affair with Norman Scott (played here by Ben Whishaw, making this a somewhat unexpected Paddington 2 reunion) and then tried to have him killed to bury the secret. There’s major talent across all disciplines of this dramatisation — impeccable performances from the two leads, witty writing from Russell T. Davies that highlights the absurdity of the true story, and assured direction from Stephen Frears.
5. Derry Girls
Ten years on from The Inbetweeners’ debut, its spiritual successor has arrived — and it’s brasher, brattier, and very, very Northern Irish. As with the best British comedies, Channel 4’s Derry Girls arrives fully formed with a top cast of unknowns (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell is a stand-out, but they’re all destined for big things), scripts packed with rapid-fire laughs, and moments of pathos in the backdrop of the Troubles in the ‘90s. A gem, so it is.
4. Patrick Melrose
Benedict Cumberbatch hasn’t exactly been short of meaty acting roles in his career, but Patrick Melrose is one he grabs with both hands and devours. An unofficial Starter For 10 reunion (that film’s novelist and screenwriter David Nicholls here adapts Edward St Aubyn’s semi-autobiographical novels), it’s a complicated tale of abuse and neglect congealing into excess and addiction. Cumberbatch is predictably excellent, and there are fantastic turns from Hugo Weaving as his father and Jennifer Jason Leigh as his mother. Essential viewing.
3. Sharp Objects
Based on the novel of the same name by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, Sharp Objects has all the ingredients for a classic whodunnit: a grisly, suspicious death, a small town chock-full of sinful secrets, and a big-city reporter sent in to cover the crime. But it plays out rather differently on screen as a bleak, slow-paced character study. As suspects prove their innocence, tips prove less than fruitful and the crime begins to occupy less screen time. Amy Adams’ Camille – whose homecoming triggers memories of a traumatic past she’s long tried to suppress – is actually the puzzle being pieced together. Viewers lured in by the expectation of a more conventional crime drama, one featuring something more like the breadcrumb trail of clues laid down in Gone Girl, perhaps, will find this adaptation is a very different proposition. Hard-hitting, and as thorny as it is unconventional.
2. Killing Eve
Writer/ producer Phoebe Waller-Bridge had already more than proved her edgy credentials with her sit-com work (Fleabag, Crashing), but Killing Eve emphasised beyond any doubt that she’s a formidable force in any genre. Her globe-trotting spy thriller – loosely adapted from a series of e-book novellas by Luke Jennings – was, by turns, unbearably tense and eye-wateringly violent, but Waller’s needle-sharp and mordant wit kept it light on its feet throughout its pacy eight episodes. Sandra Oh grounded the series in the title role, but it was Jodie Comer’s psychopathic, sympathetic, charming, chilling assassin Villanelle who stole the show.
1. The Haunting Of Hill House
Mike Flanagan’s affinity with the horror genre is clear (he directed Oculus, Ouija: Origin Of Evil, Gerald’s Game), so his turning to Netflix for a ten episode series based on Shirley Jackson’s supernatural classic was always a tantalising prospect. His revamp of The Haunting Of Hill House surprised everyone by expanding the story into multiple timelines and introducing a legion of new characters. His version focuses on the Crane family of troubled siblings brought up in the grim mansion of the title, cutting between their childhood with their disparate present-day lives. Flanagan establishes a richly creepy, off-kilter atmosphere from the start, exploiting the Gothic setting of Hill House to the full. Every beautifully-lit shot draws us in to this bleakly inhospitable setting, where shadowy figures roam, but possibly only in the minds of its inhabitants. Yet despite the over-riding tone of impending doom, there are flashes of humour, and the cast are eerily perfect.
Keep up to date with all the latest movie news, click here to subscribe to Empire on Great Magazines and have the latest issue delivered to your door every month.